2018-19 Board of Trustees candidate profiles

On the ballot this year are two full-term, five-year seats and one partial-term seat of three years. Seats will be filled in order of the number of votes received.

Caroline Brancatella

111 Winne Road, Delmar
Bethlehem resident: 4.5 years
Occupation
Attorney
Community service/volunteer work
Bethlehem Library Trustee (2017-present); Board Member, DePaul Housing Management (2016-2017); Co-Chair, University at Buffalo Law School Capital Region Alumni Chapter (2015-present); Running Buddy and Volunteer, Girls on the Run Capital Region (2016-present)
Other pertinent details
I live in Olde Delmar with my husband, Kent and our dog, Sasha.

What do you consider your most meaningful career accomplishment?
My work as an attorney at the law firm where I have practiced for the last 8.5 years. The opportunity to collaborate with talented colleagues on behalf of sophisticated clients challenges me in ways I could not have predicted, but that encourage me to grow.

What skills do you bring to your tenure on the board?
I bring a renewed respect for the library, as I have witnessed how well the staff, director, and trustees work together. Each individual brings a different perspective, and understanding how I best complement the team is how I can best serve the board.

What are your goals as a library board member?
My goal as a library trustee continues to be to listen and respond to the Bethlehem community. The various public forums held by the board of trustees last fall made clear that the public values the library’s services and that community input is vital to the success of any library initiative.

Views about libraries

How does a library best serve its community?
By recognizing the specific needs of its constituency, while making room for evolving thoughts. No public institution can please everyone all of the time, but it must take all voices into consideration and make decisions that serve the greatest good for the present and future.

What are the most important issues facing public libraries today?
A library’s fundamental role is to serve as a source of information. Deciding the most efficient and accessible information platforms will be an ongoing question for a long time to come. Also, as libraries serve as both information and quasi-community centers, how those two roles interact remains an issue.

How are public libraries changing? How can a library board expedite these changes?
Changing media consumption requires a library to continually re-define its catalog and the services offered. However, I do not believe the role of a library is to expedite large changes, but instead consider and institute smaller changes on a regular basis that enable it to work out bumps, but not be left behind.

How have libraries influenced your life?
Libraries have served different roles for me as young child, a student, and an adult. My involvement with the board has been a reminder of the value and challenges of the First Amendment. It is not an exaggeration to say that library patrons have made me think about my role a citizen and community member.

What do you like best about Bethlehem Public Library?
There are many things I love about the library, from viewing the art and exhibits in the foyer, to exploring what program and trips are being offered. But the simple truth is that I am a devoted reader of books, and I love the selection of titles to which the library grants me access – especially the latest fiction.

What is your vision for the future of this library?
The library should continue to provide current services (book and item lending, community programs, access to media technology), while always considering the changing requests of the public. Any vision I have is incomplete since much of what the board decides should be shaped by the views of the community.

Mark Kissinger

33 Nathaniel Blvd., Delmar
Bethlehem resident: 21 years
Occupation
Special advisor for aging and long-term care to the Commissioner of Health
Community service/volunteer work
First United Methodist Church, former chair of Administrative Council, youth group chaperone, BBC coach, library board, Bethlehem Youth Soccer
Other pertinent details
Married with two sons, 18 and 21.

Experience and goals

What do you consider your most meaningful career
accomplishment?
Helping people with their long-term care needs. I also was instrumental in obtaining funding for Alzheimer’s caregiver support services.

What skills do you bring to your tenure on the board?
The ability to evaluate issues from all sides. I also have over 29 years in state government and can help navigate the state bureaucracy.

What are your goals as a library board member?
To maintain excellent services at the library. I also want to help guide the library to push forward and be at the cutting edge.

Views about libraries

How does a library best serve its community?
By having a great collection of materials and varied programs. We must also be responsive to emerging needs of the community.

What are the most important issues facing public libraries today?
The role of technology and staying relevant with our programs.

How are public libraries changing? How can a library board expedite these changes?
We are more than just books and videos, so a board member can provide guidance to the leadership on the staff to help balance the new realities.

How have libraries influenced your life?
They have been a place for learning and a safe place for public debate.

What do you like best about Bethlehem Public Library?
The service and culture of excellence.

What is your vision for the future of this library?
To continue the great service and expand our reach into the town with excellent programs and service.

Harmeet Narang

56 Grayceland Ave., Clarksville
Bethlehem resident: 21 years
Occupation
Wind Turbine Engineering Manager
Community service/volunteer work
Bethlehem Public Library Trustee
Other pertinent details
I grew up in Bethlehem as an avid user of the library. My wife and I are now raising our children here, and they love the library as much as I do.

Experience and goals

What do you consider your most meaningful career accomplishment?
In the past 9 years, I have helped drive down the cost of renewable energy by developing more capable and less expensive electrical systems for wind turbines.

What skills do you bring to your tenure on the board?
I bring a healthy questioning attitude and an emphasis on making sure that we are focusing our money and resources on the things that have the biggest impact for our community and patrons. My engineering background has been a good fit for the technology opportunities and challenges of the library.

What are your goals as a library board member?
To keep the library on sound financial footing. To make the right decisions about resources, staffing and the physical space that enable the library to continue to be successful into the future. To continuously look for new ways the library can serve our community.

Views about libraries

How does a library best serve its community?
By constantly evaluating the material, resources and programs that we provide. And by always being willing to try something new. No one would have imagined being able to borrow a wifi hotspot at the library 5 years ago, and today we have 30 of them that are always in demand.

What are the most important issues facing public libraries today?
Certainly two of the most important issues are spanning the wide range of needs and technology “comfort levels” of its patrons. To reach as many people in a community as possible requires printed newsletters and twitter feeds with everything from book club selections to go-pro cameras.

How are public libraries changing? How can a library board expedite these changes?
The way patrons use the library and its resources is constantly changing, and a good library keeps up with this by changes to the materials they keep, policies, and variety of programs. The best thing the library board can do is to pay attention to the needs and ideas of the staff who are the closest to the patrons.

How have libraries influenced your life?
The great resources available at the Bethlehem Public Library were a huge contributor to my love of reading as a child and as an adult, and for my children as well.

What do you like best about Bethlehem Public Library?
I love the constant creativity of the library staff. Things like being able renew books online, borrow a fishing pole, and play Game of Thrones trivia are all signs of a library staff that’s always trying to find new ways to serve our community.

What is your vision for the future of this library?
I want the library to continue being a hub for our community where people meet, work, share, learn and relax.

 

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